It all started when Ariane Li and Ashok Jaiswal had their first baby in January 2013. The overjoyed family and relatives taking multiple photos caused their phone storage and cloud to run out of memory. This created a constant fear of losing photos if they failed to back them up to the cloud. This, combined with an overall lack of time and high stress from balancing childcare needs with professional commitments, led them to realise that people needed a solution consolidating the complexities of managing their media content into a single product that was simple to configure and use. This realisation gave way to an idea.
The Hong Kong-based couple founded a startup Ezee System to create EzeeCube, a modular media open source device that automatically synchronises media like photos, videos and contacts from iOS and Android phones and tablets if the EzeeCube app, Ezeesync, is installed.
EzeeCube’s operating system is built around XBMC, an open source media centre operating system. It’s a home media centre that collects, consolidates and manage media in a secure home cloud, compiling it into albums and removing duplicate files. All of this without physically connecting to other devices.
What differentiates EzeeCube from other media hubs is what its inventors have termed their “stack and extend” technology, a patent-pending technology that allows users to add storage space on top of the one terabyte memory already present. This is achieved by stacking additional modules, called EzeeDisks, on top of the EzeeCube.
EzeeCube’s open source origins imparts flexibility onto the EzeeCube platform. The stacking feature allows technologists to use developer kits to build their own EzeeCube accessories, such as wireless routers or even game consoles.
EzeeCube is easing into the market with an Indiegogo campaign. Funded by Bigcolors Co-founders, James Giancotti and Jackie Lam, as well as Kyle Lam of Big Bloom, for an undisclosed amount, the funding goal for the Indiegogo campaign is USD$75,000. As of June 16, 2014, it has raised 18 per cent of the target.
The Founders possess a synergistic portfolio of skills and knowledge. Jaiswal, the technical lead, has experience in programming and system integration, as well as multimedia development, having worked for various startups in Delhi, Singapore and New York City. He also was the project leader for Goldman Sachs’ in-house development team in streamlining its video conferencing facilities.
Li, a Cambridge-trained economist with a law background, has a diverse professional portfolio in marketing and event management. She oversees operational and legal matters for Ezee Systems.
Starting development with open source boards such as Raspberry Pi, the duo realised that their hardware lacked the necessary aesthetics and configuration, requiring them to build their own hardware. Starting with a core team of three, they gradually expanded to eight members managing development, sourcing, production, legal and marketing matters.
Ezee Systems currently has a working EzeeCube prototype with iOS and Android apps, intending to take a lean approach in keeping the development costs and product price of EzeeCube low.
Li acknowledged that while hackable elements of EzeeCube appeal to hobbyists, it is ultimately targeted at non-technical consumers. However, with a lack of advertising, they are unable to raise awareness of their product in a wider market. Currently, their main backers are friends, family and XBMC enthusiasts.
Noting how major consumer markets are shifting to mobile devices, they intend to target smartphone users from Western markets, where the majority of their crowdfunding backers originate. When asked how they intend to compete with Google and Apple, who have developed Chromecast and Apple TV as media centres, Li explained that during their market analysis, they realised no company had created a product satisfying consumer needs.
Commenting on their competitive advantage and Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, Li shared that “Sony has come out with similar products for almost two years but we don’t even know about it. Our advantage is that we are small, so we can be flexible and really listen to our users. The Indiegogo campaign has been fantastic. We have had many technical questions thrown at us and many suggestions and we are already coming up with ways to incorporate what we can.”